tv Humanizing the Founding Fathers CSPAN April 11, 2017 12:08am-1:17am EDT
find them relatable. he also talked about his own interest in studying the founding fathers. from the society of the four arts in palm beach, florida, this is two hours. thank you, dr. brenneman. and good morning, everyone. i'm so excited you're here. and welcome to the first founders and us, the relevance of our origins. i am gay gaines, and i'm an addict of founding american history. in november of 20 15i was having breakfast with jo ellis and speaker newt gingrich at mount vernon, my very favorite place in america. we were lamenting the fact that most colleges and universities in the united states are no longer teaching founding american history.
and, in fact, most high schools are no longer teaching our founding american history. in 1898, when seniors and colleges and high schools were asked who is the greatest hero, they unanimously said george washington. in 1988, when they were asked the same question, the answer was michael jordan. we were discussing my dream of building a future for the past right here in palm beach, florida. in what some might think an unlikely location, but i told them about this incredible organization, the society for the four arts and its generous benefactors and members, and both historians were thousandtic. the goal was to attract renowned founding history experts here to palm beach to educate and
re-educate adults and students and to reach a wider audience through television to stimulate discussion about our unique founding. i presented the idea to the 4 arts leadership, the wonderful chairman patrick henry, president david brenneman, and education committee chair shelly guglein. their reaction was positive. >> we then smoke to our marvelous can-do marley shareland, director of education, and tireless senior associate of education donna marie valley, and along with dependable administrative assistant stephanie grant, they all supported the idea of tanking on this big project. together, we hope to engage a wider audience in a national conversation about america's revolutionary generation. those political leaders present
at the creation. the american founding is the big bang in american history, from which our core ideas, values and political institutions radiate. no other country in the history of the world came into being as these united states of america. we assembled speeches of unquestionable distinction with a proven capacity to bring a high degree of intellectual sophistication and contagious enthusiasm to a large audience. today we begin the series with the man who encouraged me to go forward. dr. ellis graduated from william & mary with a b.a. and received his m.a. and doctorate from yale university. he has concentrated his long and distinguished teaching and voluminous writing career on the
founding fathers. he told me, and i quote, writing is solitary and teaching is social. i love to do both. teaching forces you to talk things out, writing allows you to digest the conversations and perhaps put them in a more concise form. his powerful book "american sphinx" about thomas jefferson won the coveted national book award for nonfiction in 1997. his fabulous book "founding brothers" won the pulitzer prize for history, also a coveted award in 2001. that christmas i received 13 copies for my family and friends because they all knew i would want to read it. my personal favorite of all time is the quartet, published in 2015. now, you all know the opening of
lincoln's gettysburg address. four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation. but hold on. joe ellis points out that statement isn't exactly accurate. with the articles of confederation in place, the founders had achieved independence from england, but we could well have become a new europe, with 13 independent countries. the quartet, washington, madison, hamilton and j. were responsible for making the transition happen, from a confederation of states to a new nation. ellis clearly and eloquently explains how the united states constitution and the bill of
rights came to be, and america was born. quote, it could be considered the most consequential act of political leadership in american history. ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm palm beach welcome to dr. joseph j. ellis. [ applause ] >> i'm not sure i'm going to be able to live up to that. no human being can, and that's going to be one of my themes that the founders were all human and we finally have a moment in our own history we can understand them as creatures like us, imperfect human beings, impressive nevertheless for reasons that i'll try to explain. i want to begin with a statement
of sorts, with a story and then a question for you. i can't see you very well, but i hope that i can ask you a question. here's the statement. i think that we must begin with certain assumptions about american society and culture right now as we address the founders that this lecture series. namely, that the american public is embarrassingly illiterate about our history, that the scholarly world has largely abdicated its responsibility to communicate beyond the cloistered groves of academe, that political correctness is operating at epidemic levels in our most distinguished colleges and universities, making serious engagement with controversial issues difficult if not impossible. and our political culture has become so polarized and partisan that communication across ideological lines is virtually nonexistent.
well, the internet should have expanded communication in a way that is wonderful, it has also created a series of bubbles that each of us occupy. and we only talk to our friends on facebook. and our own values, our own prejudices, which we all dearly regard as convictions, are reinforced and are seldom challenged. i think that the one thing we can certainly agree on, with regard to the most recent presidential election, that we live in a divided country. and that one of the functions of this lecture series and my remarks today is to try to create a safe space, back there in the past, in the late 18th century, where we can come together and talk about the
controversial issues. if we discover that in that visit back to the past we only are learning things that confirm our own categories and convictions, then we're cherry picking the evidence. neither liberals nor conservatives, republicans or democrats, will be fully happy with the results of these deliberations. but in fact, the very categories we think in will be challenged because in the same way that the founders looked back to the greek and roman classics, to cicero, the founders are our classics, if you will. go to literary terms, shakespeare. we need to go back to them to revisit the eternal issues and try to find ways to talk to each other that we right now cannot do. my story, it is designed to talk about the fuss about the
founders. my remarks are under the title what is the fuss about the founders? i wrote a book about thomas jefferson and my publisher sent me on a book tour, and at one place, at one moment, in the book tour is a blurry thing, like a political campaign, i was in richmond, virginia, i gave a talk and my treatment of jefferson was not totally complimentary. the people that burn incense to mr. jefferson in charlottesville were not completely happy with my thoughts. and i'm a virginian. i even went to the same college that jefferson went to. my hair, what's left of it, is the same color as jefferson's hair. but at the end of the talk, and the q & a, a woman got up, a woman of a certain age, very
well coifed and well-attired, and i'm not going to be able to replicate her accent perfectly. a richmond accent is more southern than certain parts of alabama. mr. ellis, i have listened to your remarks on mr. jefferson and, mr. ellis, everything you said is wrong. and i know it's wrong because mr. jefferson appeared to me in my bedroom last night. and he told me you were going to say these bad things about him. and then her final line, this was a great line, it sort of knocked me for a loop. mr. ellis, you are a mere pigeon on the great statue of thomas jefferson. i said -- i said, uh, uh, thank
you very much. next question, please. i was flustered. i didn't know what to say. but she came up to get her book signed. and she gave me her card. had her name on it. it said poet. and i said to her then, and i mustered this up, i said, madam, it is not really important whether you regard me as a pigeon. it is very important that you regard jefferson as something other than a statue. [ applause ] and my remarks today are to create real live human beings rather than statues.
and in order to move in us in that particular direction, i want to ask you a question. i can't see you clearly, but i am operating on the assumption that many of you out there are parents. and grandparents. an oral response would be is that true? >> yes. >> me, too. have you had this experience, when your children are very young, you can do no wrong. you are their gods. you are omniscient. and then they cross a line. now whether that loin is metabolic or psychiatric or purely chronological, i don't know. but when they cross that line, you can do no right.
indeed, in purely freudian terms, they want to kill you. part of an oedipal complex. that syndrome is the pattern describing most historiography, more scholarship and most interpretive work on the founders. it is this oscillation, this swoonish swing, between idolization and evisceration. iconic versus deadest whitest males in american history. it is a cartoon. it is really two sides of the same cartoon. and i think we're at a point in our history for several reasons
that i'll specify when we can move past the cartoon. now, there are reasons why all new nations seem to need heroic founders, who are mythologized and capitalized in the literature over the years. rome has romulus and ramis, britain has king arthur, spain has el sid. but notice all of those people are fictional characters. the american founders were real people. and we created in the 19th century a mythology surrounding them, probably for sensible reasons, but it is long since past the time when those
mythological renderings are really credible or relevant. in fact, there is a dialogue between adams and benjamin rush, i recommend to you. it's available in a book called "the spur of fame." here is rush. what i am going to tell you is that most of the founders don't want to be mythologized. rush, i shall continue to believe that the whole idea of great men are a lie. and that there is very little difference in that superstition which leads us to believe in what the world has called great men and in that which leads us to believe in witches and conjurers. adams, the feasts and funerals in the corrupt system in washington and that cardinals and popes and kins and the whole
hierarchal systems created and washington, himself, would object to the pilgrimages to mount vernon as the new mecca of mount jerusalem, and the grandson in editing the works in 1850s had a preface which said that we are beginning to forget that the patriots of the former days were men like ourselves and we are almost irresistibly led to ascribe to them in our imaginations certain gigantic proportions and super human qualities without reflecting that this at once robs their character of consistency and their virtues of all merit. one of the things that charles francis adams is saying is that if these guys were all gods, what in heaven's name do we have to learn from them, and because certainly, we are not.
so i think that we are at a moment when we have begun to move past this. i guess, how many of you have seen "hamilton"? unbelievable play and i'm not a fan of hip-hop, didn't think i would like it and the single most interesting depiction of hamilton and if you were to ask me, and i supposed know something about this, which of these founders is going to end up getting this attention, the last one i would have picked is hamilton. and i called ron chernow and i said, you lucky son of a gun. why didn't they pick jefferson. there are kids, and i have driven kids to the soccer matches in the last couple of months who in the back seat reciting lines from "hamilton" the play, because they have the
script or the record of the script, and have you seen it? it is almost like the harry potter phenomena among children, among adolescents. by the way, is there a bunch of middle school kids here? okay. i thought there may be. and somebody told me that there might be, and so i have to watch my language a little. at any rate in addition to the "hamilton" phenomenon, humanizing hamilton, there have been books over the last 10 to 20 years, some by speakers in this series, walter isaacson and stacy shifflin franklin, and david mcculloch and juan adams and then the year 76 and ron chernow won for "hamilton and washington" and evens yours actually has contributed and in fact his three boys have all had their college educations paid in
part because of books that were sold. why is this happening now? there are two reasons why this book is selling. there's now a book on the bet seller list about jefferson and the tripoli pirates. one reason is because each of the founders have been the subject of massive documentary research into their papers and most of which have was begun in the middle of the 20th century. and those collections have been marching forward at a very glacial pace, but we now have for the founders as a whole the fullest documentary record ever put together for a political elite in world history. you can learn -- you know, all you have to do is sit down and read 87 volumes of the washington papers and you really, which i had to do, and -- but the material is
there. there's a second reason that i think the found remembers in vogue, we are unhappy with our current political leadership. we believe that the gold standard is back there in the late 18th century, and the current leadership, republican and democrat, represents a debased form of that currency, or as henry adams, grandson of john put it in the middle of the 19th century, if you look at the history of the american presidency chronologically, you've got to the believe that darwin got it exactly backwards. [ laughter ] all right. we are at a moment that we want to seize and we want to humanize these people. we want to learn from them.
who are these people, and what am i talking about, the founders? okay. there are two foundings. not one. one occurs in 1776, the core document is the declaration of independence. the court experiences the war for independence successfully waged. the second founding is in 1787. the core document is the constitution, the core experience is the creation of a national government in the 1790s that endures despite what all european experts thought was going to happen. these are very different moments with different impulses. i will talk about that at the end. in order to make the list of the most prominent founders, those at the top of the american
version of mount olympus, you have to have been a major player in both foundings. now, that is going to eliminate certain people who are prominent, who were there at one but not the other founding. it is going to eliminate john marshall, george mason, john jay maybe, although jay is coming up. jay is -- if you were investing in the founders, put your money on jay. he's going to ascend in worth. sam adams, henry, patrick henry, robert morris, you probably don't know who robert employers is, governor morris. they don't make it. who makes it? there are six people who make the list. this is, i guess, my list, but i defend it. they are george washington,
primos interparis, the foundingest fathers of them all, and they would all said among us he was the greatest. they all said that. no disagreement. he is the toughest to get to know. benjamin franklin, the grandfather amongst the fathers. franklin was born roughly the same time as jonathan edwards, and he grew up knowing increased mather in boston, and he's an old guy. he at the time in an international poll would rank higher than washington, because of the reputation as a scientist in england and as a philasof in
france. washington's key value is judgment. he got all the big things right. franklin's is wisdom. he's probably the wisest of them all. and people say, well, what would franklin say about the affordable care act? you can't do that, so i have developed the answer, he would not care, because he is on medicare. [ laughter ] john adams, i like him best, and you will see why, because he tellses you more than any of the other founders in his diary and the letters. he is probably the best read, and he's the most contrarian. he's the feistiest. he's the most human. thomas jefferson probably the most intellectually
sophisticated. the most resonant in both senses, meaning he is the greatest and the most lyrical, the author of the most famous words in american history, we hold these truths to be self-evident, and also the most racist and the most explicitly so racist and the most duplicitous. none of the political shenanigans that we're watching in our world today would at all surprise jefferson. james madison. the most politically shrewd, the guy who makes things happen on the ground. if god were in the details, madison would be there to greet him upon arrival.
he is the lawyer's founder, and he thinks like a lawyer, but he was not trained to a lawyer. you tell me what my client is, who he is, and i will prepare the case. jefferson would tell him who the client, is and the tandem of jefferson and madison is the single most important partnership in the founding era. finally, alexander hamilton. hamton is probably the smartest. he's the prod ji and he would have gotten the highest grade on the lsats, and he's also the most dangerous. if you let jefferson go, we become slightly or almost an anarchy. if you let hamilton go, we are at risk of becoming a totalitarian dictatorship. and, therefore, there is one
thing present in this mix that you should notice. it is a diverse group of people, diverse intellectually and ideologically. that the founding -- well, washington is prima interparis, as i said, and the founding is a collective achievement and while we're familiar with the doctrine of checks and balances as a way of describing the constitution, there is an inherent check and balance in the collective leadership of the founding. they argue with each other throughout the 1780s and '90s and throughout the 19th century, and we'll see jefferson and adams arguing in their correspondence at the end of the talk. history is an argument without end, and they have created a
republic in which the constitution is not supposed to provide answers. it is supposed to provide a framework in which we argue productively. anyway, diversity in the original sense of ideological and political differences. now let me ask -- this is a question, another question that i hope you can think about. i call it the wilkes-barre question and why? because wilkes-barre, the population of wilkes-barre, pennsylvania, is approximately the size of white virginia in 1776. got in a? now, if you and i go walking down the streets of wilkes-barre today, do you think that we can find george washington, thomas jefferson, james madison, george
mason, john marshall and patrick henry? they've got to be there, you know, like with latent leadership potential, but certainly we're not going to find them. so what happened in the late 18th century to generate a generation that is beyond much question the most creative political leadership -- generation of political leaders in american history? well, arnold toinby said that all leadership in all society s is a function of crisis, and that the late 18th century was a great crisis. well, it certainly was that, the revolution, creation of the american nation state.
now, the problem with that argument is that we can all think of great crises in american history where great leadership does not show up, like now. [ laughter ] . so -- and now you can't say there was something special in the water back then, can you? that doesn't make sense. for can you say with any credibility that tongues of fire appeared over their heads in philadelphia in 1787 or even in 1776. washington believed in providence. never used the word god, but used the word providence a lot. god was guiding him, and providence was guiding him. i think that i don't have an answer to this question. that the talent did emerge.
one kind of answer is the united states in the late 18th century compared not to now, this is what modern students want to do, and it's not right, it is presentistic. compared to england, france or other european countries is open to talent, much more than any of those other countries. if washington were in england he would have made major in the british army, no more. if adams were in england, he would have been a country lawyer, and franklin would have been a book seller. hamilton, god knows about hamilton. he was living a bastard. and adams called him the bastard brat of a scotsman peddler. so that is not an egalitarian
society in our fullest sense of the term, but it is open to talent in a way. and now, the talent has to be white, and the talent has to be male, okay. and get used to it. that is what it is going to be there. okay. that is the founders and some speculation about why they emerge and some argument that their collectivoid is important because within the collective there is a lot of different points of view. i want to do two things now. what did they -- look, i'm saying this is the greatest generation in terms of all -- apologies to the discussions of the world war ii generation, which is my father's generation, but this is the greatest generation in terms of political talent in american history.
in my judgment, the historians who are studying the late 18th century and say i don't want to the study politics, i want to study something else, and a lot of them are doing that now, that is like showing up at fenway park with a lacrosse stick. but what did they do? why were they so great? what did they achieve? whacht were what were their major achievements? i think that there are five of them.achievements? i think that there are five of them. number one, they wanted the first war for colonial independence. well, a lot of countries end up winning wars for colonial independence after them asia and latin america and that becomes
really easy. in fact, cloneiam status is only a weigh station towards independence, but they are the first to do it. and on the face of it, it looked like that was not going to be possible since the british army and navy together was the most formidable military force in the world. the british army itself wasn't as good as the prussian army and not as got as the french army, but it was brett pretty good and you put it together with the navy and you know what happens hover the neck century with the british emire and how did this ragtag group of amateur soldiers, which is what they were, win a war against such a formidable force? what's interesting is that washington figured out after some horrible experiences on a minute aent especially and long island, a truly element a.m.
strategic reality. washington lost more battles than any successful general in american history, but he understood one thing. he didn't have to win. the british had to win. all he had to do was not lose. it's a lot easier not to lose. when people ask me, again, this is a historical question, what would washington say about our policies in iraq? my first answer is he doesn't know where iraq is. he is busy being dead right now, but if i wanted to be controversial, i would say he would say how have we become the british? because the british have the
problem that all conventional armies have in trying to win a counterinsurgency war. in the early stages of the war, washington thought that if general howe appeared before him, and later it's going to be clinton, he was honor-bound to meet on the field of battle, that it was a matter of honor. not to do so was to deny the honor code. it was -- you get what i'm saying. that's stupid, and he came to realize by 1777, '78, that his goal was to fight not really a guerrilla war because he's a conventional army but what they call a war of posts. therefore, if the american war
for independence were a conventional war, there was no way the american side could win. once it became a war for the hearts and minds of the american people, there was no way that the british could win. and if you think about it. we never won. they just gave up. after yorktown they said, we still have 35,000 troops in north america, but it is time the to get them out, because it it is not worth it because we've got other fish to fry in europe and in the carribean, but they won the war, and that is a big thing. by the way, during the war the support for the continental army was very, very patchy. washington early in the war wanted to raise an army of about 100,000 troops. he looked at the population of the united states at that time, and he said between the ages of
18 and 50, we could raise an army of 400,000, and all i am asking for is 100,000. he never got more than 15,000. and it often went down at the end of terms in service down to 8,000 because the states were concerned with defending themselves with their state militia rather than providing troops for the continental army. most of the guys in the continental army never got pensions. it is a disgrace. but that is another story. number two, achievement. they are the first nation-sized republic in world history. what's the big deal about this? the assumption was that republics could only work in small areas like swiss cantons
or greek city states. they were too weak as a form government to impose their will or to represent the people easily and effectively. the great montesquieu in the spirit of the laws published in 1748 had what everybody described as the definitive work on republics, and republics can't work in big populations and big areas of land. and think about lincoln at gettysburg when he said, you know, any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure, right? a lot of people thought that you couldn't be a republic of this size. most european pundits at the time presumed that the united states was going to break up into a series of confederations. they made it work.
and that's the reason that the term american revolution is a term that i would defend. it is a revolution, and it is not a revolution in the sense of french revolution or the russian revolution which is a class marxist-based kind of experience, but it is the creation of the mold el for the liberal nation state that will come to dominate the world over the next 100 years. it defeats the european monarchies in the 19th century. it defeats the japanese and german versions of totalitarianism and the soviet version of communism. it is the liberal model, and there is no effective alternative unless you believe in the islamic caliphate which i don't happen to believe in.
they did it. that is the reason it was a revolution. third, they created the first secular state. it was assumed that any major nation must have an established religion. the established religion would provide the mental and intellectual glue that bound people together. otherwise, they would all disagree things all the time. no nation in the world before the americans created a separation of church and state. there are plenty of places in the world, certainly the middle east is one of them, where that very ideaed is still impossible. i did a seminar for federal judges, gordon whiten and i at
uva several years ago, and we asked the judges if you were in charm of the judiciary in baghdad, what was the first -- what would be the first thing you would try to do and who would you look to among the founders? and this one federal judge said thomas jefferson, separation of church and state. we said bingo. burks of course, it won't work there. they created political parties that rootenized debate and created the possibility of a legitimate opposition. now, political parties are notoriously bad things, right? we all know, that and jefferson -- most of the founders hated political parties. jefferson said if i must go to heaven in a party, i would prefer not to go at all. the very moment he said that he's creating the republican party which is confusing to people because the republican party becomes what is now the
democratic party. in the 790s it's called the republican party. if you look in textbooks, you see democratic-republican with a high then, that's wrong. didn't call that until about 1816, '17. what happens in other ref lugsz doesn't happen in the united states. in france they decided to gill all the girondins and the others at the guillotine. in russia the bolsheviks killed the men vics and it's the firing squad wall. there is no guillotine or firing squad wall in the american revolution because people argue but they don't kill each other with the exception of
burnhamton. next, they create a government in which there are multiple sources of sovereignty, and again, this is supposed to be something that you can't do. aristotle said their can't do this. there needs to be some ultimate source of sovereignty to which you can refer. blackstone in 1765 says, yes. the british empire must have a place in which the ultimate resolution of all policy questions reside, and that's parliament and parliament and the king really, but for our purposes parliament. think about it, see. this is the reason the american revolution happens. because the american legislatures say, the assemblies say, we want to be able to tax ourselves, and later they say we want to be able to legislate for all norms of domestic policy for ourselves. this is in the 1760s and '70s and the brits say, no, you can't
do that. we can't let the empire function this way with sovereignty existing in haul these little colonies. if they had been able to see, and the americans say, look, we will still be loyal to the king, but we want to have our own form of political sovereignty at this colony level. if the brits had been able to say okay to that, we wouldn't have had a war. and they would have discovered the british commonwealth 100 years earlier, but they believed they couldn't do that, and they also believed they had the military power to enforce what they wanted. but we created a situation in which they are -- well, who is sovereign on the issue, well, let's say capital punishment, the states?
yeah. how about -- and by the way, most of the founders didn't envision the supreme court as ultimate arbiter of the constitution. i know that there are fans of mr. scalia out there, but if he really went with original intent, the original intent of the founders was to not allow the supreme court decide on matters of the constitution's legitimacy. scalia would have to recuse himself from everything. of course, he's in heaven now, so he doesn't have to recuse himself from anything. finally, this is not a separate point, but it's a separate achievement but in addition to winning the first war and becoming the first nation-sized republic, separating church and state, creating political parties as a form of rootinized dissent and living with multiple definitions of sovereignty,
ambiguity, this was a weird kind of revolution. it was a conservative revolution which on the face of it is a contradiction in terms. this is controversial about what i am going to say, and, therefore, i didn't make it a separate point and people can honestly disagree about this, that the revolutionary generation recognized that they could not implement their full agenda at once and that if they tried, it wohl fail. they are not utopians. they are nature has changed in america. the french believe that. the french believe it that once they kill off the aristocracy, and lenin believes it once you get rid of the aristocracy, and the proletariat takes over, the founders will have paradise, and
the founders don't believe in paradise, but this world, and human nature as it is. they believe that meaningful social change happens gradually rather than being imposed all at once. that's why, you can think of the big bang theory, namely in 1848 the women gather at seneca falls the women gather at seneca falls with the beginning of we hold i'm not technologically committed to anything other than martin luther kimartin luthet
speech. and he says, that i have come to collect on a promissory note. and you can not claim that gay people are prohibited from marrying, because of the language in the massachusetts constitution drafted single handedly by john adams in two weeks in 1779. but now if you believe that justice delayed is justice denied, the argument that we just made is reprehensible, and i understand that, and on the issue of slavery, i would be hard pressed to defend the position, and we will talk about that in a second, and that this is a burkian revolution, a
conservative revolution that believes that the mandate for equality that is inherent in the declaration needs to expand over time. and that is the way it worked. okay. if those are the achievements, there are two significant failures, and i can see that i'm really running, and going to go over, but bear with me. you want me the to go over? okay. thank you. the powers at be say, no, no, don't do that. there are two great failures, and one is the failure to reach a just accommodation with the native american population, and the other was to end slavery short of the civil war. anybody says that either one of those things shouldn't be blamed on the founders is misrepresenting history. anybody who wants to finesse
these issues and especially slavery is not being true to the facts of american history. you have to face it. the question is not whether these are tragedies. they are. the question, and now, listen, are these great tragedies or shakespearean tragedies. what does ellis mean by that. a greek tragedy, tis the will of the gods. it is inherent, it is intractable. it is unavoidable and some of my friends think that hamlet and leer and some of the flaws are in the characters and that means that the founders are responsible here because they are the agents who did this and
that they bear a lot of responsibility and culpability. and that is the argument that we should have. let me introduce you to the way we could have it. on the native american question, there's a moment in 1782 in versailles when john jay is leaning over a map of north america with count arounda who puts his fingerers around the great lakes and draws a line from what is now ohio to tallahassee and he says everything east of that is yours, and everything west of that is ours. jay doesn't need a line. he points to the mississippi, and everything east of that is ours, and west of that is your,
and that's newspaper -- nau nonnegotiable. that becomes the part of the treaty of paris in 1783. living between the alleghenys were approximately 110,000 native-americans who never got to be consulted on the decision, and upon that signing, all of their the rights were completely absorbed and ended. and the question is, and we know the end of the story. it's going to end with jackson and the trail of tears and the 1830s and the elimination of the native-american population by and large east of the mississippi called indian removal. i want to give you some numbers here. 1780, 100,000 native americans, and 5,000 white anglo-saxon americans west of the alleghenys, and 100,000 and
5,000, and 1790, first census, and these are rough numbers, and 80,000 native americans, and 50,000 white anglo-saxon americans. and get this one, 1800, and 70,000 native american, and 300,000 anglo-saxon white americans. what we see here is a demographic of white populations simply streaming across the alleghenys and why is the indian population going down? disease. they don't have immunities to the especially smallpox and measles, most of them don't. and so therefore, at demographic
wave begins to hit indian settlements there is, all of a sudden people start dying. and's like an artillery barrage in world war i, with microbes and viruses doing the work of the artillery shells. could this have turned out differently? washington tried to do it, and in the history of the presidency, a lot of the biographers have missed this or not geoffen not given it much significance. he makes the american economic policies to be delegated. and so he gives it and can we find a way for indian removal. to be avoided. they create the treaty of 1790
with a creek chief called alexander magirve. he's literate in english, french and greek. and they call him a tallyrand. and they say that they want to create a policy where the enclaves east of the mississippi in which the native americans will live and practice their own way of life and that the waves of immigration from the east are going to pass around them. we're going to defend them. we have treaties with them, and this establishes a constitutional point that's still quite valid. about the dakotas and the indian rights right now. and so indian nations are nations just like france and spain, and so therefore, once you make a treaty with them, they have the rights of the treaty. the problem was that washington couldn't enforce it. and they were streaming especially from georgia to creek country.
they gave him, and they gave the creek nation pretty much what is now the state of alabama. they assumed that over time, it would shrink because they would have to move from hunting and gathering societies to farming societies. and nevertheless, a vision was to create a series of enclaves east of the mississippi, and over time, and over the century to assimilate the native american population into the general population. that's what they wanted to do. it didn't work. they could not enforce it. if we had the supreme court arrangement that we did by the middle of the 20th century, they would have called out the national guard and enforced it in the same way they did in the segregation cases in kansas or arkansas and mississippi. they couldn't do that. i believe that the native american population is a greek tragedy.
and if they say what is behind it, it is democracy. and people pursuing the happiness, and meaning to moving out and getting land. only an elite that could impose an undemocratic policy which is what washington tried to do could have stopped it. and it didn't work. once a critical mass of population of english descendents grew up east of the alleghenys and once the americans won the war, the native american population as a culture that has its own integrity is effectively doomed. it is not a pleasant story, but i think that it is a greek tragedy, and i don't know how it could have come out differently slavery, different. i'm going to be briefer. i'm not going to be -- this is
really a big story, okay, to be sure. the founders thought they knew that slavery was incompatible with which the american revolution was based. nobody disagreed with that including southern planters in south carolina. nobody said slavery was a positive good. nobody. but it is embedded in all of the economies in the south. they, as a group, assumed that slavery would die a natural death over time. adam smith said this in "wealth of nations." slave labor cannot compete successfully with free labor. so if we can confine it to the
deep south, it will just shrivel up over time and die. and they end slavery in every state north of the potomac one by one. in the late 19th century. the last state is 1802, new york. they all adopt gradual emancipation, but it is really easy to end slavery in the north, because of the numbers. 95% of the african-american population is living south of the potomac or south of the mason/dixon line, and almost all of them enslaved. if you free the slaves in vermont, there's three. you free the slaves in south carolina, and it is 60% of the population. virginia is 40% of the population. and here's the killer, and this is the killer.
you have to face it. the founders were absolutely imaginative as you can possibly be on winning a war against a superior power and separating the church and state and creating political parties, and creating the largest republic ever. they could not imagine a biracial society. nobody could. if you read "uncle tom's cabin" the appendix reads after we free them, where do we send them? to liberia or the caribbean. abraham lincoln in 1863 sends a delegation of five of the executive leaders to the panama to explore the feasibility of panama for a location of all of the freed slaves.
all of the plans of gradual emancipation presumed that the african-american population upon emancipation would be sent somewhere else. some people think it is the west, and could have been, but then jefferson says, no, that is where where we are going to be putting the indians. anyway, he am going abrief great things here. we will talk about this at the q and a that the slavery question was resolvable until about 1820. in the sense that economically, there was a way to do it. louisiana purchase, 1803. the land gained in louisiana purchase, the entire midwest from the mississippi to the rockies, we paid $15 million.
over time, the sale of the land brought into the coffers of the united states the modern equivalent of $37 billion. create a trust fund, what they called a sinking fund to compensate southern slave owners, prohibit slavery in the louisiana territory, use the revenue to essentially end slavery in the deep is south. nobody thought of doing that. jefferson most especially. it turns out that the window was not opening, slavery was not dying, but it was growing. here it is, they could not foresee the cotton gin. they could not foresee the steam engine, and the steam engine is the first, and what's the word? there's a patented in 1776, but
it becomes effective as a mode to producing a new kind of manufacturing in england by about 1820. and so the cotton kingdom comes into existence, and once that happens, the economics of it make it almost impossible to imagine it ending. all right. i wanted to talk to you and i will do so in the q and a about what location in the past that i recommend. and think of us as a -- i have a tour guide. and the destination that i recommend that you look at most closely is the adams-jefferson correspondence, and it is the correspondence between 1812 and 1826. adams said that you and i ought not die until we have explained ourselves to each other.
they don't agree. this is what is great, but what we can see is that the disagreements and the dialogue between the two sides of the american revolution, and they are called the north pole, and the south pole of the american revolution, and i mean it not just geographically, and one is a realist, and one is an idealist. and one thinks that the american political recipe is transportable to the rest of the world. jefferson believes that. and adams believes it is not going to work in most other places. adams thinks, you know that term, american exceptionalism? is not the term now, and it is a 20th century term, but, yes, we are exceptional, and unique, and that is the reason that it is not going to be working anywhere else. their definition, and adams'
definition of american exceptionalism is the exact opposite of the modern use of the term. don't expect the middle east to work as a democracy. it's not going to happen. he says that talking about latin america, it will not work, because they are all catholics down there. and so that we can see in that dialogue a lot of the issues that continue to affect us in a language that is going to challenge our categories, and challenge the way that we think about them in a fashion that is truly healthy. i probably had some truly eloquent conclusion, and it is all written out, but as the psychiatrist that i am told say "our time is up", thank you very much. [ applause ]